Is the Confessional sacrosanct?

In August 2017 the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said he would risk going to jail rather than report what is said to him in the sacrament of confession, even if what is confessed is related to child sexual abuse. He made those comments in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission relating to the institutional responses to abuse to make the reporting of allegations mandatory, with a failure to report becoming a criminal offence.

Such an approach echoes the views expressed by Cardinal George Pell in 2012 that ‘what’s heard in the confessional stays in the confessional’.

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Cardinal Pell – many hurdles still to overcome

Cardinal Pell has been acquitted by the Australian High Court in relation to the criminal charges that were brought against him and has been released from prison but it appears that there are still many hurdles for him to overcome.

In an earlier BLOG we dealt with the fact that his acquittal will now enable the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia to release its findings on Cardinal Pell, which to date had been heavily redacted in the Royal Commission’s final report of 2017 so as not to prejudice the criminal proceedings that were ongoing at that time.

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The impact of Cardinal Pell’s acquittal on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The High Court decision handed down last week clears the way for the full release of unpublished findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which referred to Cardinal Pell.

Although the Royal Commission published its final report in 2019 the sections of the report detailing its findings in relation to Cardinal Pell and his evidence were heavily redacted.

The Royal Commission heard evidence from Cardinal Pell from Rome about what he may have known about paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale and the offending of other priests that were being investigated by the Royal Commission.

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Australian High Court to deliver final appeal judgment in the Cardinal Pell appeal on 7 April 2020

On 12 March the High Court in Australia deferred ruling on an appeal to overturn the conviction of former Vatican treasurer George Pell for sexually assaulting two teenage choirboys in the 1990s for which he was sentenced to a six year jail term.

After two days of legal arguments, the High Court of Australia said it was still considering whether to allow the appeal.

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Child Abuse, the Response of Senior Office Holders and the Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church remains involved globally in allegations of non-recent child abuse with resignations, criminal trials and convictions occurring in Australia, Chile and France in recent months. The allegations involve ever more senior members of the Church in their respective countries.

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